Easy day trips from Lake Como
From villas and gardens to authentic local culture, Lake Como’s jam-packed with things to see and do – and our handpicked experiences make it easy to see all of the best bits. Here are some of our favourites…
Como and Lugano tour
Take in two of the region’s most well-known cities in one day with a guided tour of Como itself and a trip to Lugano in Switzerland.
Set between the lake and wooded hills, Como’s a city bursting with grand buildings. Enjoy a walking tour of the main sights, from Piazza Cavour to the Gothic cathedral, the Duomo. Afterwards, you’re free to explore on your own. You could hop on the funicular and take in panoramic city views, or just find a café where you can sip a proper Italian coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
In the afternoon, you’ll jump on a coach to the lakeside city of Lugano in Switzerland. Amble down the sculpture-lined promenade and admire the camellia and magnolia blooms in the parks. Then cast off on a leisurely cruise across Lake Lugano to Porlezza back in Italy, where you can spend an hour enjoying its laid-back ambience before heading home.
Villa Balbianello boat tour and visit
Set sail on a private boat trip across Lake Como to one of the region’s must-see historical sites, the fascinating Villa Balbianello. Built on the tip of the Lavedo peninsula, it’s famous for the lush, terraced gardens that overlook the lake – you might even recognise them as settings used in the Star Wars and James Bond films. You’ll get a guided tour to learn more about the villa, which was originally a Franciscan monastery and was last owned by the explorer Count Guido Monzino. Inside, the rooms are filled with rare glass paintings, sculptures and antique furniture. And on the top floor, there’s even a small museum dedicated to Monzino’s adventures, which include climbing Mount Everest and leading an expedition to the South Pole.
Piona Abbey and wine tasting
Enjoy a guided bus tour to the lakeside town of Colico, which is famous for the historical Piona Abbey. This monastery was founded in the 7th century and is still home to a community of Cistercian monks today. You can visit the frescoed church and wander around the peaceful gardens and cloisters. Afterwards, pop into the abbey shop to buy some honey or limoncello made by the monks.
The second half of the tour takes in one of Italy’s lesser-known wine regions, the Valtellina Valley, which has produced wine since the middle ages and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you’ll round off the day with a wine tasting session and get to try one of the region’s other traditional delicacies, bresaola – a thinly sliced air-dried beef.
Spend a day exploring one of northern Italy’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Affectionately known as the Florence of the North, Bergamo’s Città Alte, or upper town, is packed with churches, piazzas and grand palazzos.
Wander around the cobbled alleyways, before popping into the Accademia Carrara to admire works of art by Italian Old Masters. Or just find a pavement café on the Piazza Vecchia and watch the world go by as you sample the city’s signature chocolate speckled ice cream, stracciatella. In the afternoon, meet up with your guide for a walking tour of the other must-see sights, from the Venetian city walls to the Corsarola – a bustling street lined with cafés and craft shops.
St Moritz and the Bernina Express
Tick off one of the world’s most scenic train rides on this popular Lake Como experience. After a quick coffee stop in the lakeside town of Tirano, it’s on to Switzerland for a trip aboard Europe’s highest railway route, the Bernina Express. The 1-hour journey takes in the most dramatic section of track, climbing steeply up to a high point of 2,253m. Along the way, you’ll cross deep gorges and trundle past peaks, glaciers and the icy waters of the Lago Bianco reservoir.
After riding the rails, you’ll have a couple of hours to explore the glitzy alpine resort of St Moritz. Spend your time browsing the boutiques and galleries in the centre of town, before stretching your legs on the lakeside path. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can call in at the Badrutt’s Palace hotel for a spot of afternoon tea in the Grand Hall. Or swing by a café to sample some Engadin tart, a local sweet treat made from pastry, caramel and walnuts.
Lake Orta and Isola Bella tour
Start the day by hopping on a coach to Lake Orta – nicknamed La Cenerentola (or the Cinderella Lake) by locals, it’s one of the region’s smaller lakes and is known for its tranquil atmosphere. There, you can spend some time strolling around the waterside town of Orta San Giulio, with its quiet, car-free streets and Romanesque architecture.
In the afternoon, it’s on to Stresa on the shore of Lake Maggiore. There’s free time here to have lunch and admire the grand Belle Époque hotels, before boarding a boat for a private tour to Isola Bella, or Beautiful Island. With its ornate palace and terraced gardens, designed to resemble the decks of a ship, it’s easy to see why this is famous for being the most beautiful of Lake Maggiore’s islands. Step ashore to explore the opulent ballroom, bedrooms and underground grottoes, then head outside to mingle with the white peacocks that wander between the manicured flowerbeds.
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